Jerusalem – the city which fascinates
A city built upon a hill cannot be hid. If that city is Jerusalem, neither can it be ignored. This ancient city arouses passion such as no other. Every stone has a story locked within its grains. Secular and sacred history have left their imprint on the landscape of the human heart and mind. However, unseen though signed off in the Bible is the conviction that Jerusalem is where Yahweh’s heart is set. “I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there … 2 Chronicles 6:6.
It was the Lord of Hosts desire that Jerusalem would be the throne of His King of the lineage of David. When the tabernacle and then the Temple sat on Zion’s hill the glory of God could be seen. His presence was expressed from the Holy of holies through the visible Shekinah cloud. Whilst He dwelt there the city was indestructible. Unfortunately, the leaders and the people took God for granted. They imagined He would not fulfil his threat to express wrath over their sin. Never, no never, not ever imagine God doesn’t call to account. His holiness and justice demand He exercise what His word says.
Though judgement seemed a long time in coming its delay only increased its ferocity. It came in the guise of the Babylonian nation under Nebuchadnezzar. Twice His armies raided and cowered the people but Jerusalem remained. Why? God’s presence was evident in the temple. Then Ezekiel recorded the reluctant God vacating His dwelling. In chapters 8-11 you can read the slow, almost agonising retreat to the Mount of Olives. Now the nation was vulnerable. Now Nebuchadnezzar at his third attempt overran it. The significance of the Lord’s choice moving to the Mount of Olives will become evident in a later chapter.
Psalm 137 depicts the grief experienced by the people of Israel. Asked, probably with a mocking tone, to sing a song of Zion, the song would not come. ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’(Psalm 137:4). All that could be sung was a lament. Rejection of the Law and the breaking of the Covenant brought upon the Nation defeat and dejection. Since that time the presence of the Lord has never resided in a temple on Mount Zion. The closest time the Temple mount felt the tread of His presence was when Jesus worship and taught there.
Although the presence of God departed from the temple, His mission continued. He had promised that a descendent of David was to come and claim the throne. To this all the prophets attest. But woven within the mission was a more majestic, marvellous and mystifying purpose. Before the promised king can reign, the Suffering servant of Isaiah 53 must take centre stage. Would this person be able to fulfil both functions? This was the dilemma the leaders faced when evaluating the person of Jesus. Their verdict dismissed Jesus from both categories. To them He was the carpenter from Nazareth, a roving Rabbi who disturbed the people with His message of “Repent for the Kingdom of God” is near. With the help of the Roman dictatorship the Jewish leadership succeeded in having Jesus crucified. Unwittingly they had assisted in fulfilling Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.
Israel still cannot sing the songs of Zion although resident in part of their promised land. Jerusalem must wait for a promised day when songs of joy will resound from Zion again. ‘Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord has taken away your judgements’ (Zephaniah 3:14). When that happens the Lord, as their King, will dwell in their midst once again.
Until then, Jerusalem will fascinate and capture our attention. As next week's blog points out, Israel's capital is a cause of concern, a battle ground and will be a poisoned chalice to the Nations.